On October 27th, shortly after the fires and our reading of "Tropic of Orange", Alex and I ventured west towards the Billy Wilder Theater to catch “3 Films by Charles Burnett”. As far as I can remember, the sky was an opaque gray that blended with the colors of the 10. Rain fell sporadically and mixed with ash from the south, together forming black watercolor that streamed down the windshield of my car and obstructed our hoped-for-view of city lights. Inevitably the waves of KSPC receded into white noise, and we soon felt the omnipresent weight of our literature’s Los Angeles upon us.
Arriving early, we picked up some Mexican food before the movies began. Even though the place was a chain, I would say that the chimichangas, black beans and rice were all pretty good. I would tell you the name of the restaurant if I could remember, but it eludes both Alex and me at the moment.
Upon entering the theater, I realized that the audience was primarily black, either African or African American. Clusters of weedy film students, mostly white and to which we seamlessly belonged, peppered the crowd as well. After finding our seats, we sat down next to a young couple (they both had nose rings if I remember correctly) and talked a little bit before the lights dimmed. All that comes to mind of our conversation was the discovery that Stan (Henry Sanders) from Killer of Sheep was regularly featured in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (a Glassmann Family favorite) as Robert E. the Blacksmith.
The presenters gave a few words and acknowledged the cast members in attendance; shortly thereafter the movies were screened. Here are some of my thoughts:
Fragmentary Notes (Films Listed in Order of Appearance):
QUIET AS KEEP (2007) A short film about the everydayness of a dislocated New Orleans family in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Setting not given. Revolves around a broken down car and a family stuck in transition. Shot on digital. Funny and poignant both in minor senses of the words.
MY BROTHER'S WEDDING (1983) Set in South Central. Focused on family through the eyes of a black son. Shot on 16mm color. Composed of emotional images of the everyday. Bleeding light and blaring music. Beautiful because of its gestures and parts, not because of its message.
Intermission. I walked outside to get some fresh air. The main feature, the impetus of our journey, would start in five minutes.
Boy jumps over buildings in KILLER OF SHEEP
KILLER OF SHEEP (1977) Also set in South Central. Shot on 16mm BW. Tells a new narrative that reaffirms life in Los Angeles. It made me laugh, and I think it made me cry. SEE IT.
Here are some helpful links so you too can watch the film. If you don’t have one already, the first is for a BitTorrent Client (this is technically illegal but is in my opinion worth it); the second is for the torrent of the movie itself (free but also illegal); the third is to purchase it legitimately over Amazon (the DVD also comes with My Brother’s Wedding as an added bonus):
After the screenings, UCLA held a Q and A with members of the audience who were associated with the films’ production. Strikingly unhelpful from a factual perspective, no one seemed to remember the objective past; a friendly argument ensued over whether or not a screenplay ever existed. It was fun, though, and everyone seemed to enjoy reliving the experience of the movies through the respective standpoints of their own hazy memory.
On the drive back, the Los Angeles smog seemed to suffocate a little less, and it became easier to see outside the car windows. We both felt exhilarated, and upon our triumphant return to the Inland Empire, I might have proudly muttered to myself, “Fuck Didion and her LA”.